We found a magical place to camp the other night, on our way to Capitol Reef.
Valley of the Gods would not even have been on our radar if we hadn’t caught a post by Becky of Interstellar Orchard (thank you, Becky!) describing its beauty and excellence as a boondocking location. The timing was right for us; we had thought we’d make it as far as Glen Canyon or Hite that evening, but it had been a long driving day, and as we left Monument Valley—which was spectacular and crowded—we were tired and ready to find a home for the night.
Following Becky’s clear directions, we wound our way up highway 163 to the brown ‘Valley of the Gods’ sign and turned onto a dirt road that immediately took us over a cattle guard and through a small stream in a wash. There hadn’t been too much rain lately, or the road would have been impassable. As we climbed higher, the stunning vistas opened up. There were other trailers and campers already settled in various sites along the way, but about two miles in we found the perfect little pullout, framed by Rooster Rock and Sitting Hen Rock, smack in the middle of 360 degrees of awesome.
The valley floor was gorgeous, with tons of rock formations.
You could even view Monument Valley from our campsite—far into the distance, but still visible.
I could have stood there staring at that landscape for hours. Attempts to describe it are feeble; it’s like trying to describe the night sky. Vast, magnificent, alien; the sense of ancient times is powerful. Gazing at it, I felt tiny and humbled, calmed and comforted. I thought about death and love and gratitude. It was the perfect place to be.
We spent a good week in the Moab area, camping at Archview RV Park, a perfectly fine park about 10 minutes north of Arches National Park. We probably wouldn’t stay there again—the park really catered to folks driving ATVs—but it was a fine base of operations for us.
As I noted previously, we didn’t plan to hit Arches at all on this trip, and we focussed instead on the northern section of Canyonlands National Park, which includes the rather unbelievable Island in the Sky. Susan and I hiked together a bit, and she also went out for a day by herself to do a longer group of hikes (my knee can’t take too many long hikes, and I overdid it the past couple of weeks).
I have to say that Canyonlands is nothing short of breathtaking in its scope, and worth a visit from anyone looking for something a little less busy than other national parks in California and Utah. From the Needles to Elephant Rock to Island in the Sky, to the Green River, the Colorado River and more, it is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, and Susan and I both felt as if we missed quite a bit. As was the case with our trip to Zion, Canyonlands is one of those places on our shortlist for a return visit.
After a lovely week in the relative quiet of the Canyonlands National Park’s Needles district–an area we highly recommend, by the way–we are now a bit north of Moab, in a decent RV park. We had been prepared for a bit of craziness here in Moab, but it is very quiet. It appears that the never-ending spring break of the western states, which we’ve been butting up against since Joshua Tree, is finally at an end.
Yesterday, we spent a quiet day: doing laundry, shopping for groceries and performing a little bit of recon in Canyonlands’ Island in the Sky district. Once you get in the middle of this district, you immediately know where the name came from: you are up above the canyons with an unbelievable view from nearly every vantage. We took a nice two-mile hike yesterday along the Grand Viewpoint trail, which literally followed the rim of the island over the canyon. Today, we’re going to go off on a longer hike over there while Susan’s curry simmers in the crockpot.
The Shafer Canyon road looked interesting, but Susan wasn’t having any of it. (Photo credit Susan)
The landscape is as big as the sky here.
Out on the rim of the canyon on the Grand Viewpoint Trail.
This will be our last extended stay on this trip; at the end of the week, we’re going to wind our way back to Portland via Boise and La Grande, to check in on the grandkids (and their parents 😉 ). It’s been a pretty amazing trip so far, and, while we’ll be happy to get home for a short while, we’re already thinking of our next trip, which starts in May.
Sorry for the radio silence, but we’ve been in remote country since we left the Zion area. We had a beautiful—and sometimes harrowing, in the high mountains—drive through the interior of Utah; spent a really cool night on some BLM land near Capitol Reef National Park that looked like it was the surface of the moon; took a detour to Goblin Valley State Park; and are now camped at Needles Outpost, a nice little private park with an interesting history1. The campground is right outside the southern entrance to Canyonlands National Park, which is beautiful and unlike any other landscape we’ve seen so far. It is also much less crowded than the parks up by Moab (which will be our final destination on this trip2), a nice contrast from Zion, which, while beautiful, was crowded.
The campground, with a small store, gas and about 50 sites, was formerly run by a couple for whom hospitality was an afterthought. Susan stayed here years ago and didn’t have any bad encounters with the hosts, but the Internet is full of screeds against them. Luckily, the camp has been bought by new owners, who appear to feel a bit differently about being in the service industry. ↩
In fact, we are not planning on going to Arches National Park. The crowds over there are crazy right now (are they always?), and I have no desire to take the same damn picture of the arch that everyone else does. You ok with that, Matt? 😉 ↩
Well, not exactly—we’re in a town called Virgin, about 15 minutes west of Zion National Park. It took a couple of days to get up here, but we’re camped happily in a place called the Zion River Resort, and will probably be here through next Monday. There’s a lot to see here; it’s my first time to this area, and Susan’s second. She’s off hiking today while I deal with some household stuff, but I’m hoping to find some places to shoot at sunset.
The travels here were fine, although we did end up in the middle of storm front that moved through the Southwest. We saw some snow in the mountains and have had close-to-freezing temperatures at night. Luckily, we have good heat and a hot tub a short walk away, and the temperatures look to be rising later this week.
We’ll post some pictures from our time in Valley of Fire soon, but I wanted to let folks know where we were, and what we’re up to.